Sticks and Bones OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Sara Krulwich
  • NY TIMES

  • VARIETY

  • AP

  • HR

  • WSJ

Opening Night:
November 6, 2014
Closing:
December 14, 2014

Theater: The Pershing Square Signature Center/The Irene Diamond Stage / 480 West 42nd Street, New York, NY 10019

Synopsis: 

David Rabe's Tony-winning Sticks and Bones is a savage and savagely comic portrait of an American family pulled apart by their son's return from the Vietnam War. Ozzie (Bill Pullman) and his wife Harriet (Holly Hunter) are overjoyed to see their eldest son David again, but the furies that haunt David begin to overwhelm the family. This production reunites Rabe and director Scott Elliott for the first time since Hurlyburly.

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF Sticks and Bones

    Bad News, Ozzie: David’s Home From ’Nam

    Ben Brantley

    November 6, 2014: A pestilence has entered the house of Ozzie and Harriet. It is a disease of unease that creeps into their walls, their furniture, their bloodstreams, like a fast-mutating mold. The contagion was spawned on the battlefields of Vietnam; their son, newly home from the fighting, is a carrier. And their best and trustiest defense, all-American denial, isn’t working at all. It feels right that apprehension should permeate every atom of the New Group’s revival of David Rabe’s Sticks and Bones, which opened on Thursday night at the Pershing Square Signature Center, though I suspect that not all of it is intentional. It’s hard for contemporary interpreters and audiences to wrap their heads around this unwieldy, symbol-heavy 1971 drama about a family polluted by a distant war. But in Scott Elliott’s fascinating new production, any professional discomfort felt by him and his cast, led by Holly Hunter and a brilliant Bill Pullman, feeds the climate of anxiety in which Sticks and Bones must exist. This revival annoys, subverts and unnerves in equal measure. And it makes you marvel that such a strange, angry, messy and profoundly disturbing work won the Tony Award for best play, a prize usually reserved for more tidy upholders of theatrical convention.

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  • VARIETY REVIEW OF Sticks and Bones

    ‘Sticks and Bones’ with Bill Pullman, Holly Hunter

    Marilyn Stasio

    November 6, 2014: The New Group kicks off its 20th anniversary season with a winner: a powerful revival of David Rabe’s harrowing 1971 black comedy, Sticks and Bones. Masterfully helmed by company a.d. Scott Elliott, the production stars Bill Pullman and Holly Hunter (both sensational) as Ozzie and Harriet, savage caricatures of the archetypal all-American mom and dad who are dumbfounded by the transformation of their soldier son who fought in Vietnam and returns home blind. Shocking in its day, the play still packs a mighty emotional wallop. Most war-themed books and plays take a decade or so for their authors to process (i.e., recover from) the experience. But like The Basic Education of Pavlo Hummel and Streamers, the other plays in Rabe’s Vietnam War trilogy, Sticks and Bones was written while this deeply unpopular war (in which the playwright served) was still raging in Indochina. Which surely goes to explain why the emotions feel so raw.

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  • ASSOCIATED PRESS REVIEW OF Sticks and Bones

    Caustic 'Sticks and Bones' Still Bites

    Jennifer Farrar

    November 6, 2014: More than four decades ago, young American men were drafted into the U.S. Army and forced to either go fight in the jungles of Vietnam or face jail time. Most people reluctantly watched that unpopular war play out every night on the news. Playwright David Rabe (The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel, Streamers and Hurlyburly) skillfully captured the national malaise of the late 1960s in his caustic drama Sticks and Bones, about a deliberately war-obtuse America, that won a best play Tony Award for its 1972 Broadway debut. The New Group has mounted a searing revival that seems as unfortunately relevant as ever, with Americans currently weary of wars in the Middle East. Radiating the disturbing energy of Rabe's original post-Vietnam-tour anger, the dark comedy opened Thursday off-Broadway at the Pershing Square Signature Center. The large TV in the household of this play doesn't seem to show the evening news, only old movies that distract and calm the oblivious family members. So when oldest son David returns home blinded from fighting in Vietnam, filled with anger and guilt over atrocities he's seen and loathing himself for abandoning a Vietnamese woman that he loved, his family is primarily annoyed with him for disrupting their placid, lily-white suburban lives.

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  • HOLLYWOOD REPORTER REVIEW OF Sticks and Bones

    Apple pie never tasted so tart

    David Rooney

    November 6, 2014: Watching the New Group's unsettling revival of David Rabe's Sticks and Bones, it's impossible not to flinch at the realization of how confronting this 1971 play must have been to American audiences when it premiered, before official U.S. involvement in Vietnam had even ended. This scalding work scores direct hits on the stubborn obliviousness of the folks back home to the realities of that dirtiest of 20th century wars. The playwright channels raw anger and despair into his depiction of PTSD, and the cluelessness of family, church and community to deal with it in an era before that condition even had a clinical name. It's also no mystery why the still-disturbing play, a top Tony winner in 1972, is so seldom revived. Truth is, it's a hard sit. Despite Scott Elliott's insidiously effective production and riveting performances from Bill Pullman and Holly Hunter, the writing remains very much of its time.

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  • WALL STREET JOURNAL REVIEW OF Sticks and Bones

    Stuck in the ’70s

    Terry Teachout

    November 6, 2014: David Rabe used to be big but is now mostly forgotten save by the New Group, which revived his Hurlyburly in 2005 and is now giving us Sticks and Bones, the first installment in his quartet of plays about the Vietnam War, in which he served. You probably won’t recognize the title unless you have near-total recall, but the Public Theater produced Sticks and Bones off-Broadway in 1971, then moved it uptown for a production that won its author a Tony, after which it was turned by CBS into a TV movie that half the network’s affiliates refused to air. That’s quite a tale. On the other hand, Sticks and Bones hasn’t been seen in New York since it closed in 1972, nor have any major regional productions come to my attention. You’d expect it, then, to be a cultural artifact, as is Jason Miller’s That Championship Season, another antiestablishment play that rang the box-office bell but flopped when it came back to Broadway four decades later. Sure enough, it’s a leaden satire about Dave (Ben Schnetzer), a wounded soldier from a sitcom family so squeaky-clean that his father (Bill Pullman), mother (Holly Hunter) and kid brother (Raviv Ullman) are actually named Ozzie, Harriet and Rick. Blinded and broken in Vietnam, he comes home to tell them the truth about the war and finds that they just won’t listen.

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